The Ariel Family Doubles: Our Furry Boys

When we went on lock down at the start of the pandemic, a longing emerged. Maya and I wanted to grow a family. For starters, we decided a cat would do. We started out by browsing sites offering rescue cats. Typically, it was me, C3, who would ask Maya, “What do you think of this one?” showing her my phone screen. She’d shrug, “Maybe. We’ll see.” 

A few days later, I discovered a kitten named April. April was a born without eyes, only showing slits as though he were sleeping 24/7. We adored him, or rather I did. You see, I’m the impulsive feeler. Maya is the cautious thinker. After a few discouraging conversations, we did not adopt April. We decided we weren’t the best match for him due to the possibility that we’d be moving out of our current rental row house within the year. From what we researched, we felt that it would be best if April were to be with someone who can provide a more permanent space from the moment he is adopted. We learned that it is best for a blind kitten to maneuver in a home where the environment doesn’t change so that he can adjust quickly to his surroundings. Since we couldn’t guarantee that for him, we weren’t the right match. A bit disheartened, we discontinued our search. Admittedly, we were a bit busy as we shifted gears and focused on getting married, which we did last June. July came and went. In August, I received a group text that got us back on track.

My aunt sent a picture of a litter piled up with patches of black, strips of brown & gold, and a spot of white. A surprise litter had been born on her farm! I swooned over the picture and responded saying how adorable the bunch was. At the time, Maya was away on a trip with some close friends. A few hours after receiving the picture, I found myself still thinking about them. Again, as the impulsive feeler, I forwarded the photo to Maya, implying my interest in these newborns. This time, Maya showed an interest too. Pretty quickly, we decided we’d ask my aunt if any were available for adoption. She replied, “Most of them!” 

Due to our lifestyle, Maya and I asked which kitten seemed to be the most laid back and calm. My aunt immediately identified one of the golden striped tabbies, the one who would be found buried beneath the balls of fur, fast asleep and purring away. We took her word for it and decided this would be our boy. We arranged for them to stay on the farm until they weaned off their mother’s breast milk and were strong enough to travel. We would wait six weeks. 

But wait, something changed. A couple weeks before we traveled to the farm, my mom called. She said, “I’ve been thinking about you adopting a cat. Why not consider adopting a second?” This had me elated because knowing my mother, she’s like Maya, a cautious thinker. Coming from her, I grew giddy about the idea and texted Maya again. This time, I was away visiting family. I asked Maya, “Hey, this may sound crazy, but how about adopting a sibling too?” As expected, Maya said, “Let’s wait until you come home then we can discuss this.”

Upon my return one night, Maya and I retired to bed. She handed me a journal that we use to write an entry to one another on occasion. I read a page-long entry she wrote while I was away. She looked at me with a slight grin on her face. Halfway through reading, I noticed that she underlined an “s” in “kittens”! She said, “I am looking forward to growing our family with kittens!” I jumped on top of the bed covers, on top of her, wrapping my arms around her head and peckered her forehead with kisses. 

Funny, we got excited before I even asked my aunt if any kittens were still available for adoption from that litter. Fortunately, she said yes and shared that the golden striped one seemed to bond closely with one of two black kittens still available. So one became two. The Ariel family doubled!

Before meeting the boys, we shuffled through a number of name ideas, hoping to come up with a neat duo combination.  Here’s what we came up with:

Taco & Bell
Batman & Robin
Bonnie & Clyde
Dunkin & Donut
Blackey & Stripey 

While we had a good laugh over those, we weren’t feeling them. We wanted something more sentimental. That’s when we decided to name them after our respective home states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey by naming them Penn & Jersey. 

Penn & Jersey

Penn is lean, independent, and athletic. He loves to give you forehead-to-forehead rubs and hop up onto the table just for attention. Jersey is chubby, silly, and clumsy. He loves to lay on your face while in bed or on your lap and lift his paws up, beckoning for belly rubs. 

They’re perfect companions for one another. As brothers, they play tug-a-war with homemade rope, chase after one another’s tails when they have the zoomies, and create a ying and yang shape when they nap together in their favorite cat hammock by the sunroom window.  And I kid you not, they jump up and down (does your cat jump?) when they hear their wet food dishes clink against one another for a Sunday night treat. 

We’ve had these boys for a little over a month now and couldn’t be happier forming a little family with them.

Instagram: @thearielseries

It was a Race to the Proposal.

Friday, November 23, 2018: That’s the day we both bought engagement rings for one another.

Here’s the twist.

Neither of us knew the other was buying an engagement ring on the very same day. Both of us had parted ways during the Thanksgiving holiday that year to visit our respective families. We both were on a mission to find an engagement ring for our to-be fiancée. We also both wished to be accompanied by our moms/families when ring-hunting.

The morning of November 23rd, my family and I went to Diner 22 for breakfast. What was once a railroad car, the diner’s tables were packed together with the backs of chairs touching. With elbows bumping, we all slurped several cups of Joe and guzzled down buttery omelettes, juicy sausages, and jellied toast. Feeling giddy, we headed out in the sleet to Moyer Jewelers in State College, Pennsylvania. This store was my mother’s recommendation. Owned by a woman in a male-dominated industry, the store had recently started a store-wide sale due to the owner retiring. Meanwhile, Maya and her mother drove around Livingston, New Jersey for a few errands before ending up at Walter Bauman Jewelers, also a recommendation from her mother. Were we on the same wavelength that day without even knowing it? Hmmm… there’s more.

C3’s older sister during the sleety ring-hunt

When Maya arrived at Bauman’s, she shared with a salesperson what she was looking for: a white-gold band that men typically wear with the possibility of adding a design for some flair. After browsing a small selection of rings because it was the “men’s” section, Maya quickly narrowed it down to two rings. She tried them on, looked at herself in the mirror, trying to imagine which one I would most appreciate. Soon thereafter, she had a gut-feeling. That was her sign for which ring to purchase. Meanwhile, at Moyer’s, I also shared with a salesperson what I was looking for: a white-gold ring with the possibility of a row of embedded diamonds. After browsing a small selection of rings because the store was voluntarily going out of business, I also quickly narrowed it down to two rings. My older sisters each took one ring and tried them on so I could see how they’d look on someone else. One of my sisters decided to sign while wearing the ring since Maya primarily uses sign language to communicate. Once my sister picked up her hands to sign, tears welled up in my eyes. I could see Maya right then and there, wearing that ring. That was my cue for which ring to purchase. We made our decisions and left the store, both heading back to our respective childhood homes with our moms/families.

I repeatedly opened the ring box, marveling at the braided rows of diamonds and imagining the day I’d kneel down in front of the love of my life.

Maya’s engagement ring

Maya continuously clutched onto the ring box, bubbling with excitement and and imagining how she would pop the question to her one and only.

C3’s engagement/wedding ring

When we reunited after the Thanksgiving holidays and for several months thereafter, we danced around the topic of engagement. However, we omitted from sharing that either of us had a ring secretly stowed away upstairs and were both scheming up proposal plans! We left it up to the element of surprise.

If you’d like to know who beat the other to the punch in proposing, it’s on Youtube! You also could check out another blog post, A New Way to think about Engagement Proposals, sharing why our engagement story turned out the way it did.

Taken on the day we married
Jubilantly posing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, exactly 5 years after gay marriage became federally legalized

Maya wished for a second ring that would be more modest and simpler for every-day wear. You can see this ring in our marriage pictures, a simple white-gold wedding band on Maya. We bought this ring together at Walter Bauman’s several months after being engaged. Our marriage story is in another blog post titled, Let me tell you a thing or two about imperfect perfections.

Have at it.

Let me tell you a thing or two about perfect imperfections.

I took a recess from writing during this pandemic. My inspiration subsided, having left my last blog post unfinished in the draft box since April:

We decided to postpone our wedding. Maya and I recently made this decision together. We explored our options and chose the one we believed would be best given the current situation. Needless to say, there’s a pandemic going on. A pandemic that has changed lives left and ri

April 14, 2020 at 2:40pm

I didn’t finish the sentence. I stared at the words I just wrote. I was about to tell the world that we were postponing our wedding because of a pandemic. It was starting to sound like I was looking for sympathy. I thought, why would I write about this when the rest of the world is literally grappling with what tomorrow may look like? That afternoon, I closed my laptop and sat outside on the porch steps. Feeling unsettled, I looked along the unusually quiet city street. Moments passed by. Eventually, I reminded myself I hadn’t lost anything or done something selfish. I wasn’t at a crossroads. All I needed to say was, “A celebration can wait”. There is something that matters to me more than a wedding. I am with someone who loves me the way I love them. For that, I can be grateful. Maya and I would honor our commitment in another way.

So that we did. To catch you up to speed, Maya and I joined hands in marriage on June 26, 2020. As many of my returning readers know, this date is special to us for a couple of reasons. On the day I shared my vows and inserted a wedding band on Maya’s ring finger, exactly four years earlier I first laid my eyes on her. Little did I know our world would collide in one of the most intimate of ways. On the day I called Maya my wife for the first time, exactly five years earlier the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage, legalizing it in all fifty states in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. For this privilege…to every last fierce activist, we are indebted to you.

Instead of our original plan of an outdoor garden wedding in the middle of the Pennsylvanian forests, we married right at our dining room table in Washington, DC. We chose to marry before our immediate family members via Zoom with two American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters present. We self-officiated by exchanging vows and rings. Following the signing of our DC marriage license, family members shared their best wishes through poetry, music, and stories. To conclude, we showed a video that substituted what would-have-been our first couple’s dance. Instead of dancing, we signed a rehearsed ASL translation of “All of Me” by John Legend.

ASL Translation of “All of Me” by John Legend

After our Zoom wedding ceremony, we trotted off to the U.S. Supreme Court for our first snapshots as wife and wife, taken by a beloved friend.

A couple weeks later, like my sister Fiona said, “In a bizarre twist of fate, what started as a small and private joy, has extended into the public sphere with a beautiful recognition of our love and marriage in The New York Times“, titled A Bold Toast That Came True.

As John Legend may say, that’s our imperfectly perfect marriage story.

Have at it.

The Luxury of Time During the Pandemic

Before I jump into sharing about approaches to persevering through a pandemic, I recognize that not everyone is living with the same conveniences. I acknowledge that this pandemic brings various levels of struggle for each of you. I am also aware that we do not have equitable access to necessary resources. This is something I do not want to appear insensitive about. For those who may feel the need or desire, I am here to listen if you need someone to turn to, stranger or not. Above anything else, I hope that you, my dear reader, will find relief however or wherever that may be for you if it is not in this post.

Shortly after the state of emergency was declared in Washington, DC on March 11th, Maya and I quickly adapted. We switched to a flexible routine and spoke about being intentional in going about daily activities differently but in an optimistic manner. Due to our personal circumstances, we mutually agreed this time serves us a chance to enjoy one another in ways we otherwise wouldn’t. Since meeting Maya, we’ve been on the go. It started to become an excuse for people to tease us with, “Where in the world will you be this weekend?” Our answer almost was never “In Washington, DC” where we currently reside. It was an exciting whirlwind of a schedule. However, just like most of the world, that came to a halt approximately 6 weeks ago. What would have been one of our busiest, fullest years yet has slipped into an eerie series of silent, slow days. Since the middle of March, Maya and I began strolling surrounding neighborhoods nearly every evening before dinner. This daily walk has become a moment to look forward to. These walks make me think about when my parents were both 17-year-olds, dating one another. Their dates were their walks. Those walks became their eventual foundation of valued time spent alone together. To this day, my mom speaks fondly of those times with my father. I’ve learned on these walks that you may find yourselves completely enthralled in one another’s existence.

In addition to our evening strolls, our flexible routine includes physical wellness activities. Daily, either during the lunch hour or after work, we do a 15-20 minute exercise with no equipment, guided by videos on YouTube. From time to time, we do meditation for 5 to 10 minutes, taking turns determining which position to be present in. We added the element of skin contact so to feel one another’s pulses and breathing. There is a soothing sense of intimacy felt when we do this. Perhaps because it feels innocent and takes part in our primary focus. We pay attention as we listen to calming wordless music in the background. About once a week we enjoy foot baths after dinner. We use epsom salt, mixing this in tub filled water that was simmering on the stove just moments earlier. After soaking our feet, we put a towel on our thighs. We place one another’s feet on top of the towel for a massage, using foot scrub. These activities prove to remedy my alternate state of being which would be to go stir-crazy.

With a willingness to do things differently, Maya and I enjoy several ongoing projects. This pandemic grants us a chance to commit to projects that may consume a good bit of personal time. Perhaps you may find some enjoyment in some of what we do or have done.

  • Craft projects: (1) Puzzle making; (2) Cross-stitching; (3) Paint by numbers – I ordered one that customizes a personal photo to paint for a dear friend. Yes, custom!
  • Play games: We typically play Bananagrams and Phase 10. We’ve also been meeting with two other friends weekly on Zoom to play Hearts, Rummy 500, and Cards Against Humanity. We played a few times with larger friend groups as well.
  • Mini Book Club“: We either buy or borrow the same book from a library and read chapter-to-chapter together. This is a continuation of what we already have been doing on a regular basis. Maya and I just finished a Paula Hawkins mystery novel.
  • Cook new recipes: Two of our favorite dishes we’ve tried so far and recommend are French Onion Soup and Hawaiian Chicken Skewers. With more time on our hands, we can spend more time in the kitchen.
  • Develop a new skill: A self-project I’ve taken on is developing my German so to catch up to the bilingualism that goes on at my mother’s home – all my siblings are fluent except I! Consider trying out Duolingo. It is interactive and a good start. You can take a placement test if you have a basic foundation already in a secondary language.
  • Create a comedic video: The other night, Maya and I had a little too much fun trying out a comedic video. In the video; we are communicating in sign language but we inserted manual captions. If you like it, stay tuned by subscribing to my channel. We created another installment which I am currently captioning.

Apart from all the physical wellness and ongoing projects, there are two experiences I have especially appreciated. These experiences are what they are because of the pandemic. I call one of them “Pillow Talk”. With no interruptions or obligations, there are mornings when Maya and I indulge ourselves with sleeping in and talking into the late morning. On the weekend, with no schedule ahead of us, we feel exceptionally relaxed. With no plans to see others, we ignore time and rest in one another’s presence, exchanging thoughts. With no awakening of the vibrating alarm clock, we roll over and scoot closer to the other, snuggling a bit longer.

The other experience I’ve felt grateful for is what I call “Porch Life”. Sitting out on the porch is calming as moments pass by. The commotion in the city is unusually quiet and the summer mosquitos haven’t yet arrived so I enjoy sitting out there in a bowl chair. I’m either lost in a good read and a delectable glass of wine; listening to my brother’s band, The Builders Guild, perform virtually on Easter Sunday; or attempting to cut Maya’s hair for the first time with paper scissors! Incase you’re wondering, it turned out pretty good for a first-time hairdresser.

What are some things you have been spending time doing?

The COVID-19 global pandemic is one that we will all remember. Let’s power on past this. May the the force of resilience be with you.

Like my mother says nowadays:

“Be well, stay well.”

A Day Date in Baltimore

227 West 29th Street

A bubbly hostess seated us. A lanky waiter served us coffees without a word and a bow of the head. Moments before ordering, our eyes twirled across the room, floor to ceiling, wall to wall. We marveled at antique toys glued to every available surface. A humble, stain-aproned chef served Spring Egg which we spotted on the “Breakfast Stuff” section in the menu. This is where Maya and I kicked off our day-date in Baltimore, Maryland. Papermoon Diner is an “eccentric, eclectic, technicolor dining experience that might be best described as ‘comfort food meets Baltimore with a twist.'” If you’re into milkshakes, try the Kaptain Krunch milkshake.

Cecilia dips into a hot chocolate at Papermoon Diner

501 East Pratt Street

At 9:45am, Maya and I admitted into the National Aquarium. We embarked on a hunt, a hunt for the Giant Pacific octopus. Having gone in the morning, we beat the heavy daytime crowd and were able to enjoy our view wherever we went. If you decide to go, be sure to find the Jellies Invasion exhibit which is past the cafeteria and dolphin’s tank! It can be easy to miss. That was my favorite exhibit. Spending 2-3 hours there will allow you to go through all the exhibits. Although, if you have children with you, you may want to plan for a longer visit. Also, be sure to find a nearby parking garage along E Pratt Street that accepts a discount from a National Aquarium visitor. When you go into the aquarium and have your admissions ticket scanned, make sure you ask for your parking ticket to be validated. Our parking ticket came with a $10 discount for the Market Place parking garage, adjacent to E Pratt Street. (And yes, we found the octopus!)

400 W Lexington St

Now, if you’ve had a crab cake before, you haven’t had the best yet. Just a 30-minute walk from the aquarium, and tucked in the back left corner of the Lexington Market, you’ll come upon the award-winning lump crab cakes at Faidley’s. This is where Maya and I chose to dine for a midday meal. This place has been selling fresh flavors from the Chesapeake Bay region since 1886. They even participate in next-day air-shipping of their tasty craft. And did I mention, they’ve been named one of the top 20 most iconic food destinations in all of America! Okay, before I make you drool more…

W 36th Street

A ten-minute drive from the aquarium, between Wyman and Roosevelt Parks, Maya and I strolled along W 36th Street for a few hours. This street houses multiple local shops and places to rest, drink, eat, read, and play. We paid visits to Ma Petite Shoe, Atomic Books and a nearby brewery, Waverly Brewing Company. Spending time in this area is likely to please or entertain any group or family. Choose what works for you and your crew.

Due to having evening plans of gin and rummy with friends back in DC, Maya and I did not stay past dinnertime. But with the city just being a short drive away, we are definitely going back again for another day date! That will likely include a visit to the George Peabody Library. I heard it boasts mesmerizing architecture, so if you have time you could pop by there too. Also, if you visit Baltimore during the summer, consider having an outdoor picnic meal at Phillips Seafood (kids eat free). Afterwards, you could hop onto one of the dragon or ship paddle-boats for a mini sail.

Have a great day in Bawlmer!*

*slang for “Baltimore” especially when asking another resident where in the city they live